Sometimes it takes sitting in a bar with a glass of wine to appreciate your surroundings.

It’s 6.30p.m. in Santa Maria and I have arrived with my large Tupperware container at a local bar where I have been from time to time to eat with friends or to have a takeaway.

As it is early evening the staff are wiping down plastic chairs and preparing the food. One of the staff is standing next to the chest freezer and a bowl which contains a large frozen slab of chicken pieces, too big for the bowl, which he was attempting to defrost using the stand up fan aimed in the chicken’s direction; I wished I’d had my camera. Bugs Bunny was on the television and he and the two small children watched Bugsy’s antics with the coyote and chuckled away while he stripped a few of the chicken pieces of their skin. I am not sure whether the then skinless chicken went into one of the bowls of water to help with defrosting, but fed up with doing that he moved off to stand behind the bar, leaving the fan blowing on the frozen chicken. It’s only a small bar with a back room, a toilet and a makeshift kitchen, the upper walls are painted in white with swirls of blue and it has a corrugated roof. The lower walls were scuffed and marked and it had the usual tiled floor. It reminded me of a bar on the side of the road I had visited in Barbados.

The Chef and owner who speaks some English recognises me and gets up from what he is doing and asks if I want the usual and I say I would like a takeaway please. He takes my Tupperware box to the back then comes back out and takes out some spotlessly clean chef’s uniform and a Chef’s hat which he puts on, he could have been working at any of the hotels that night dressed as he was.

As some of the food hadn’t been prepared I knew it would be a bit of a wait so I had asked the girl for a glass of red wine which I knew would come out of the fridge, something my friends don’t think I should do, drink cold red wine, but I like it. She brought me a large full glass of wine and I thought heck, I won’t finish that!

I was sat inside while I waited and sipped my wine, sat on a small wooden stool at a small plastic table opposite the bar. I watched the man behind the bar then get some bottles down off the shelf, one was a brown bottle of Baileys and another some whiskey bottle and I thought, ooh they have some expensive stuff here, not so, he lifted the large 5ltr bottle off the bar floor containing some coloured liquid with fruit onto the counter, he took the cap off the bottle of Baileys, stuck a very large blue funnel in it and started to pour some of the contents of the 5ltr bottle into the funnel, poking his finger into the funnel hole to press in the fruit or remove it with his fingers to stop it blocking the neck of the bottle. I’d wondered if he’s washed his hands after skinning the chicken! He then grabbed the bottle with the whiskey label which contained a clear liquid, another 5ltr bottle of clear liquid without a label and a 5ltr bottle with no label with a brown clear liquid in it which he said was Mel (honey) which I thought must have cost a fortune as a small bottle of honey is very expensive here.

After he tested mixtures from various bottles that he’d overfilled or to see if another tasted ok, I asked him what was the % of the grogue and he showed me the bottle and it said 43%. He did offer me a glass of it to taste but I kindly declined.

The bar is very popular with locals, a few expats and often tourists who mostly sit outside. A few locals had come into the bar and helped themselves to either a skewer of chicken that had been freshly cooked or chicken on the bone which were kept in separate containers. Some paid for their snacks and walked off up the street eating them or sat and had a glass of wine or grogue with their snack. The meat is cooked on the small BBQ they use on the street, then brought inside and placed in the containers on the bar counter.

Not long after, just as I was coming to the end of my large glass of wine, the Chef brought out my Tupperware container of rice, chips, chicken pieces, onions in sauce and some salad, a meal fit for anyone. He also offered me some malagetta, which is a very hot sauce, he poured a small drop in a plastic cup for me to take with me, believe me you don’t need a lot!

All in all a very memorable visit and an enjoyable meal when I got home, all for the cost of 450cve, the same price as it would have cost if I had eaten in, there. It may not be a place where some tourists or expats would use, but I can honestly say I have enjoyed my meals here.

What I must remember to take next time are plastic bags (they need them for take-aways) and the empty Smirnoff Vodka bottle I was due to throw away after New Year, on which I have written Welsh Grogue, well, it’s better than writing ‘I was here’!  I am sure they will put it to good use.